How Will My Fiancee's Benefits Be Affected If He Returns To Work?

Dec 9 2016 - 2:30pm

My fiancee is on ss disability and has been for 4 years. He draws 934.00 month and is 49. He wants to go back to work. Will this increase or decrease his regular ss benefit when he retires. How will it affect his monthly eligibility amount?


Well, it's complicated. First off, if your fiancée earns too much, his disability benefits may stop. When a person on disability returns to work, they continue to receive benefits for at least a 9 month trial work period, and for a 3 month grace period after that. Then, if they continue to earn more than what is considered 'substantial gainful' earnings (i.e. currently $1130 per month), their disability benefits are suspended and eventually terminated. For more information, refer to the following pamphlet:

If your fiancée became disabled at age 45, his current benefit rate is likely based on an average of his best 19 years of inflation adjusted earnings. If he returns to work and earns more than one of his previous best 19 years, it's possible that he could increase his disability benefit rate, even if he doesn't earn enough to cause his benefits to stop.

On the other hand, say that he returns to substantial work and his disability entitlement ends. When he eventually applies for retirement benefits, his retirement benefit rate will be calculated based on an average of his best 35 years of inflation adjusted earnings, less the number of years in which he was entitled to disability benefits. So, for example, if he was entitled to disability benefits for 5 years before returning to work, his eventual retirement benefit rate would be based on his best 30 years of inflation adjusted earnings.

Therefore, the effect of his return to work on his eventual retirement benefit rate would depend on how his future earnings compare to his past earnings. If they're higher than his previous earnings on average, then his future benefit rate would likely be higher than his current rate. Conversely, if his future earnings are lower and his per year earnings average decreases as a result, his future benefit rate could be somewhat lower than his current rate.

Best, Jerry